Going, going….water at some of Bakersfield’s most popular parks is almost gone

July 19, 2022
by Lois Henry
The lake at the Park at River Walk is drying up as Bakersfield cuts off flows due to drought. Lois Henry / SJV Water
Lois Henry

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The lake at the Park at River Walk is fast disappearing, as are the Truxtun Lakes and some other city-owned water features.

Blame the drought.

The City of Bakersfield Water Resources Department has cut off flows to city-owned recreation and water recharge facilities to hold on to what little surface water it’s receiving from the dwindling Kern River for drinking water, according to Daniel Maldonado, a water planner with the department.

“At this time, the City has allocated all of its surface water supplies for surface water treatments to ensure residents of Bakersfield have safe drinking water,” he wrote in an email.

Local resident Calletano Guiterrez understood the city has to contend with the drought but hoped at least some water could be set aside for what he said he and his family have come to love about Bakersfield.

“When Bakersfield allocated the funding for Riverwalk park, that was one of the many great decisions for our community,” he wrote in an email as he became alarmed by the evaporating water features there. “The attraction to the outdoor environment alone is what we appreciate here as Bakersfield residents.

“Birds, people, and fish enjoy having water in this area,” he added.

That’s understood, but the city’s Water Resources Department had to prioritize drinking water, Maldonado wrote.

The recreational flow shut off comes after the department had already initiated a deal with Buena Vista Water Storage District to keep enough water flowing in the Kern River to supply the city’s northeast water treatment plant, which serves more than 20,000 residents.

The city will send water it has banked west of town to Buena Vista and the ag water district will release a like amount from its stores in Lake Isabella to supply the northeast plant, which takes water directly off the river. There will be enough to help supply the northwest plant as well.

During the worst year of the last drought, in 2015, the river was down to just 11% of normal. At that level, Bakersfield had no water rights on the river and had to work a quick deal with several ag districts to keep taps flowing in the northeast.

The city didn’t want to get that close this time around, even though the river is still flowing about 20% of normal.

The current move to cut recreation flows won’t affect Lake Ming, which is owned by Kern County, Maldonado wrote. “The City has a long-standing contract with the County of Kern to replenish evaporation losses at Lake Ming, and the City will continue with the replenishment of Lake Ming.”

The city also has no plans to close pools or spray parks as it did during the drought in 2014 and 2015.

The city did reduce spray park days of operation by closing Mondays and and Tuesdays to conserve water but is keeping spray parks openWednesdays through Sundays 1 to 6 p.m.

SJV Water is an independent, nonprofit news site dedicated to covering water in the San Joaquin Valley. Get inside access to SJV Water by becoming a member.

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